The United Kingdom appears to be drifting apart. On Thursday 18 September 2014, the Scottish people will vote on whether they want to remain part of the U.K. or become an independent nation, which is set to become one of the biggest political stories of 2014. The question is, should Scotland stay with the U.K., and if they leave, will Wales and Northern Ireland follow suit?
The most prominent figure currently in British politics, David Cameron, appears to be firmly against Scottish independence. He has recently accused Scotland’s nationalist leaders of using “threats” to silence businessmen north of the border who oppose separation. This seems to me to be an overreaction to leaders of Scottish national parties such as Alex Salmond (the leader of the Scottish national party) who has been predictably outspoken on his pro-independence views. There is little evidence to support Alex Salmond threatening anyone, so this is probably just another dig at Scottish nationalists who are pro-independence.As for what the U.K. would lose as a result of Scotland becoming independent, the official population of the U.K. would shrink by around 5 million people, going from 63 million to 58 million. Public spending in Scotland is 10% higher than the U.K. average, so the U.K. economy may take a small hit, but nothing major as far as the economy is concerned would change. From an economic viewpoint, there is no real problem with Scotland becoming independent.
An independent Scotland would have to apply to be accepted into the United Nations and the European Union again, as it is the U.K., rather than the U.K.’s separate countries individually that is a part of these organisations. This shouldn’t be a big problem; there is no reason why an independent Scotland wouldn’t be allowed into the U.N. and E.U., they haven’t done anything that would disallow them entrance, and there is no reason for any other countries to veto Scotland out.
The biggest problem with Scottish independence so far is that there is a very real chance that they could not be allowed to keep the pound. Alex Salmond has said that he would prefer Scotland to keep the pound, but three of the biggest parties in England have prohibited it. Salmond believes that the U.K. government will give in and let Scotland keep Britain’s currency, but he has said that he has a ‘Plan B’ which he is not willing to disclose to the public and press. If Scotland didn’t keep the pound it wouldn’t be a total disaster, but adopting the euro or creating a new currency would be very expensive and time consuming for the newly formed government.
The new Scottish government would aim to keep Scotland economically afloat by using North Sea oil to survive. North Sea oil has been described as “the only way an independent Scotland could survive” by many people, and it is true that without North Sea oil the Scottish economy would have to be kickstarted again which would be a very difficult task to undertake. However, North Sea oil is something that Scotland definitely has, and so in the end could survive if independence comes through.
We have to keep track of what the real question is. Should Scotland become independent? There are certainly positives and negatives both for and against independence, and if the Scottish people choose independence then that is ultimately what Scotland needs. Granted, it would be a sign of the U.K. drawing further apart, but there are actually very few things wrong with an independent Scotland: it could survive economically and wouldn’t be a burden or any sort of threat to the U.K. The issue of not being able to keep the pound would be a hurdle, but one issue shouldn’t stop a nation from becoming greater. Of course, all this comes down to what the Scottish people vote to do, but if they vote in favour of independence, I for one am all for it.
Image: Saltire and Union flags © (c) The Laird of Oldham (jza84, flickr)